Without Either there is Neither

Business, Indian Mythology 11 Comments

Published in Corporate Dossier ET, October 15, 2010

In South Indian temple walls one often finds a character called Bhringi looking adoringly at Shiva dancing. What distinguishes Bhringi from the rest of the followers of Shiva is that he looks emaciated, just a skeleton in fact. And he has three legs, not two.

The story goes that Bhringi was a devotee of Shiva. One day, he came to Mount Kailas, the abode of Shiva, and expressed his desire to go around Shiva. As he was going around, Shiva’s consort, Shakti, said, “You cannot just go around him. You have to go around me too. We are two halves of the same truth.”

Bhringi, however, was so focussed on Shiva that he had no desire to go around Shakti. Seeing this, Shakti sat on Shiva’s lap making it difficult for Bhringi to go around Shiva alone. Bhringi, determined to go around Shiva took the form of a snake and tried to slip in between the two.

Amused by this, Shiva made Shakti one half of his body – the famous Ardhanareshwar form of Shiva. This was God whose one half is the Goddess. But Bhringi was adamant. He would go around Shiva alone. So he took the form of a rat, some say a bee, and tried to gnaw his way between the two.

This annoyed the Goddess so much that she said, “May Bhringi lose all parts of the body that come from the mother.” In Tantra, the Indian school of alchemy, it is believed that the tough and rigid parts of the body such as nerves and bones come from the father while the soft and fluid parts of the body such as flesh and blood come from the mother. Instantly, Bhringi lost all flesh and blood and he became a bag of bones. He collapsed on the floor, unable to get up.

Bhringi realized his folly. Shiva and Shakti make up the whole. They are not independent entities. One cannot exist without the other. Without either there is neither.  He apologized.

So the world never forgets this lesson. Bhringi was denied flesh and blood forever. To enable him to stand upright he was given a third leg, so that his legs served as a tripod.

The idea of mutual inter-dependence is a consistent theme in Hindu mythology. There is no one; one is a sum-total of two. The same principle applies in the business world. It is a lesson that Ranbir was taught by his father who ran the magazine business for 30 years before retiring.

“Son,” said Ranbir, “Remember, you do not exist without the organization and the organization does not exist without you. Remember, your production team does not exist without your distribution team and your distribution team does not exist without the production team. The marketing team does not exist without the sales team and the sales team does not exist without the marketing team. The strategic arm does not exist without the operating arm and the operating arm does not exist without the strategic arm. One does not exist without the other. Without either there is neither.”

Unfortunately, the reality in most business houses is that the two complementary arms often become competitive. Each arm wants to prove it is more critical than the other. As a result there are silos and inter-departmental warfare. The harmony represented by Ardha-nareshwara was being lost. Arguments were about whether Shiva mattered or Shakti. More critically, who is Shiva and who is Shakti.

The Rishis represented the two halves of the universe, male and female form to indicate mutual inter-dependence. But society engineered gender politics. Same is true for business houses. Anyone who has a bird’s eye view of the business knows the criticality of each and every arm. But those down below have an obsession of valuing one arm over the other, like Bhringi, creating imbalance to the peril of the organization.

  • very profound. i can see how the world works on interdependence. i think that is the biggest lesson i have learned since coming to india.


    But Competition is the Essence of Nature Development. If there is no competition then there is no way to sustain any Organisation. So an imbalance has to be created to create competition in an Organisation. A balanced company would lead to stagnancy and a boring office.

    The human mind works faster when there is speculation and it is what makes us human – An imbalanced being !!!

    • Dora

      boring is individuals not the organizational. Because of competition so many politics arrived in to the organization. If it is balanced its healthy.


        But Devdutt sir, you have explained in one of your Business Sutra videos that indian mythology suggests that no one in this world needs to be controlled by power or disciplinary techniques. everyone is free to do what they want to.

        Then, if you say that ‘Balance is healthy’ then you are speaking like the western approach who want to control and discipline everything so that its more predictable.

        So Balance cannot be healthy…just as u said??????

        • Dora

          It seems you are thinking only one side of the aspect. There was another side if we think from that side we will found.
          In this world nothing wrong & nothing correct it’s a result which we don’t like and we gave name so called ‘wrong’ same for other result so called ‘good’ but if we think from other side it is just a result.

        • ANUDIP SAMUI

          Well i dont think we live in a World where the Word Wrong or Right is left to us but in a World where it is decided by the society or the people who rule.

          So better Live in the Real World than Mythology !!!

    • Rohit Srimal

      Competition is necessary as you say, but not with your complementary department or person, but other organisation. As they say, in a supply chain, no element can make profit on the cost of another element in the supply chain. Speaking about competition, Supply chain of one organisation competes with the supply chain of another organisation. Correct me, if my understanding is incorrect.

      Rohit Srimal

  • Anudip Samui:

    There is nothing wrong with competition .. I think its the unhealthy competition where you end up having a detrimental effect on the overall growth of the organization..

    =happy investing

  • Balsu

    One is the sumtotal of two. Simple thought, nicely put

  • Dear Dev Saab, You have, so beautifully, drawn such a good lesson from the Bhringi episode. When a person develops tooth infection, the whole of his body suffers, not just the tooth. In many organizations, every dept works like a close fist, following the principle of “what the right hand does, the left hand should not know”. This adage is drafted and used only for doing charity, to ensure that the giver does not crave for publicity and the receiver is not humiliated, but not for running a company. Within the company, what is required is transparency, and frequent interaction between the production, testing, marketing and sales depts. The Company should also endure that there is such a system in place. Otherwise the company as a whole will suffer. Where is the question of competition between different depts. of the same company? In the guise of competition, it is pulling each other’s legs.

  • Dear Dev Ji,
    The more I read this article, the more the secrets of your talent that I lay my hands upon. The one, that I chanced upon now, is your art of making the words dance to your tunes. What a wonderful coinage of the two phrases in it! One – “WITHOUT EITHER THERE IS NEITHER”, and two – “ONE IS A SUM TOTAL OF TWO”. You are undoubtedly the creator of these two new phrases. Your usage of the words “EITHER” and “NEITHER” is superb. You have used these two words to mean “Both or Two”, but these two words, as per English Grammar continue to be singular, not plural (a very rare example) despite referring to more than one. How wonderfully English Grammar supports your contention that any TWO departments of a company, though physically they are TWO separate entities, they are just ONE company, hence the verb to follow is singular i.e, “IS”, but not “ARE”!